Back to The Automobile in Chicago
Chicago Tribune, Sunday, December 1, 1907
America’s greatest automobile show, a $2,000,000 exhibition, opened yesterday in this city and 12,000 people flocked to see it in the evening.
There are three shows in one, with something like 600 vehicles, comprising every variety from the light and inexpensive runabout to the luxurious touring cars and limousines and ponderous commercial trucks. The exhibition occupies every available bit of floor space in the Coliseum and its annex, the First Regiment armory, and the Seventh Regiment armory.
It was not a favorable day for an opening. It was sloppy and rainy, following the first genuine snowstorm of the season—not the kind of weather in which one would care to expose a newly acquired milk white motor car—but it apparently had little or no deterrent effect on the attendance.
Biggest of All Auto Shows.
Society was well represented, prosperity everywhere was in evidence, and furthermore it was not altogether an automobile owning or a prospective automobile owning crowd. The average citizen of Chicago likes to look at a handsome automobile as he admires a beautiful woman or a fine horse.
The extent of the exhibit, twice as large as any previous show ever held outside of Chicago, much greater than the two recently held in New York; and 30 per cent larger than last year’s show in Chicago, which was a record breaker, is the first thing that impresses one.
Just how many cars there were on display there was no means of telling last night, and they were too numerous to count, but there are 120 exhibitors of motor cars and five cars is considered average to each exhibiter. This would make around 600 automobiles and $8,000 is a low average valuation for each car. There are many that cost $10,000 or more, and there are the cheaper vehicles.
Big Display pf Accessories.
In the gallery of the Coliseum and also of the First Regiment armory are displayed the tires, lamps, and the thousand and one accessories of the automobile. The foreign makes of cars have been placed in the First Regiment armory, and the Seventh Regiment armory—the old Tattersall’s—in a distinct commercial motor car show with thirty exhibitors, the first comprehensive independent display of commercial cars ever made in this country.
The automobile show, the seventh annual exhibition of its kind, is, according to its managers, the only truly national show of the year. It is held under the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Three Big Buildings Occupied.
The three buildings devoted to the show are occupied by groups of neighborly booths separated by beautifully scrolled arches of papier maché. Each exhibit on the main floor of the Coliseum is surmounted by an oil painting by Hardesty J. Maratta, (1864-1924), a Chicago artist. On either side of the painting is a staff model of a racing machine in such high relief that the machines and the drivers appear to start directly from the wall toward the half-startled visitor.
A girl in Grecian athletic costume holding a palm in her outstretched hands forms the subject of one of the paintings. The peace and tranquility of this picture forms a somewhat sharp contrast to the intense expression on the faces of the racing chauffeurs.
Around the top of each booth is a broad red band carrying in gilt letters the name of the exhibitor. These are the only signs allowed, on the theory that “cold” signs and other notices mar the beauty of the show.
Fine Display of Paintings.
Round the gallery run a series of scenic studies in oil paintings, 142 of them, ranging in size from 4×8 to 8×24 feet, and covering in all nearly 9,000 square feet of canvas. These pictures represent in many cases scenes in which exhibited machines have taken part. Others show American cars photographed in various parts of the world and racing pictures, including the twenty-four hour races at Morris Park and Brookfield track, in England a race on the Detroit track and two scenes from the Vanderbilt cup race in 1906.
The figurante of an automobile girl in Grecian costume mounted on a pillar catches the eye at each booth. She is at the steering gear of an automobile leaning far over and looking into the future perhaps or trying to escape a canine in the roadway.
In the scheme of decoration 20,000 feet of papier maché, 150 Mercury placques, 150 figures of the automobile girl, more than a mile of signs, 100,000 square feet of ornamental work on the roofs of the buildings, and 50,000 feet of paneled wall covering have been used.
Mr. Miles Enthusiastic.
R. A. Miles, general manager of the National Automobile Manufacturers, was the most active man at the opening of the show last night. For it was to him the fruition of months of labor, and his satisfaction was evinced in the broad smiles with which he accepted congratulations.
“This doesn’t look much as if there was any financial stringency, does it?” asked Mr. Miles, as his eyes took in the hundreds of resplendent cars and the multitudes of people that continued to pour through the doors, taxing the speed of the ticket sellers to the utmost.
This is the greatest show ever held in this country. It is twice as large as any show ever held outside of this city, and larger than the two shows held not long ago in New York City. There were 110 automobile manufacturers who exhibited at those two shows, and here we have 120—a total of 306, including the exhibitors of accessories.
This show is the greatest triumph of a mechanical age. We thought that last year’s show in Chicago was something wonderful, but this is 30 per cent larger. There were at least twenty-five manufacturers who were unable to secure space, so great was the demand, though we have utilized three of the largest buildings in the city. There were drawings for space, and there was a great competition for the best locations.
Beating the New Yorkers.
I haven’t counted the cars on exhibition, but there must be 600 or more. There were 134 complete cars at the Madison Square Garden exhibition given this ear in New York City by the Association of zLicensed Automobile Manufacturers and at the Grand Palace show in New York, under the auspices of the American Motor Car Manufacturers’ Association, the total number of complete cars being 170, or a total for the two shows of considerably less than are on display in Chicago. The fact that this is a national exhibition, comprising all manufacturers as well as the advantageous and central location of Chicago, accounts for the magnitude of the show in this city.
The show means a great deal to Chicago. Each of the 308 exhibitors brings along as helpers an average of eight or ten people, and in addition there are close to 2,500 agents. The outlay on the show is around $500,000, all of which will be spent in Chicago with the exception of the railroad fare. The decorations and other expenses at the Coliseum and the two armories will represent a cost of around $50,000 alone.
1908 Auto Show
Order Automobiles Now.
The show as well as similar exhibitions is held three months earlier than last year’s at the request of the manufacturers, who believe it will be better for business and enable them to get ahead with their products. The only effect of the financial conditions this year will be that cars will be more difficult to produce unless they are ordered at this sale. The manufacturers are not going to tie up their money in motor cars unless they are sure of selling them. One manufacturer, who ordinarily produces 900 cars a season, will manufacture but 600 this year unless he has orders sufficient to warrant the larger amount. So a man wishing a 1908 motor car would better purchase it now. The cars of the manufacturer I speak of cost $5,000 each, and he doesn’t care to tie up his capital unless he is reasonably certain of disposing of them.
The layman without a guide will bewildered perhaps when he first insects the exhibits, but the way to properly do the show is to take plenty of time and ask plenty of questions. There are several large and prosperous persons at each exhibit who are yearning to give information down to the most minute detail, and without much urging they’ll take you out automobiling—or to lunch.
Vehicles at All Prices.
In the vast array of cars there are vehicles of all prices. One may buy for $500 a Brush runabout, or for $850 a Buick roadster seating three people. Of the high priced cars a good many admired the touring coach shown by the Pope Motor Car company. Its interior fittings consist of prima vera—which is automobilese for white mahogany—and French whip cord. It has mirrors in inclosed panels, for the fair riders, a vanity box, coat hooks, a locker room under the front seat, sliding arm rests, and of course it has electric lights. There is a folding hod fior the chauffeur and a swing glass, and it costs $7,000.
The longest automobile at the show is in the Thomas exhibit. It is 140 inches form hub to hub. It is a six cylinder machine and costs with all the fixings, $6,000. In this same exhibit is a novelty in the way of a town cab, price $3,000.
Knox Exhibit the Largest.
This largest exhibit of cars is that of the Knox company, just left of the main entrance. There are eight machines on display here and the company has two more in the Seventh Regiment armory, where the commercial vehicles are herded by themselves.
On the right of the main entrance is the exhibit of the Woods Motor Vehicle company and it includes as interesting a vehicle as is shown in the Coliseum. It was built in 1897 and was displayed the following year at a bicycle show at Tattersall’s, the first motor car ever shown at a public exhibition. It is an electric brake Montgomery Ward bought in when it was new for $2,000 and took his “country cousins” riding in it in Michigan avenue, so it is the original rubber neck wagon. It saw daily service until a year ago, doing ts fourteen miles an hour without ever skidding or running down elderly persons and young children. Then the advertising manager of the Woods Motor Vehicle company got Mr. Ward to trade it in for a new machine. It is a clumsy looking vehicle alongside its up to date relatives and shows better than anything else what strides have been made in the automobile business in the last ten years.
Some Interesting Groups.
The largest and most expensive cars naturally attract the general public. There are thirty-five or forty of these, all different models, both touring and limousine, in the world $5,000 to $7,000 class. The engine in each of these cars is a powerful one, with cylinder bore and stroke of more than five inches. All are water cooled, with long wheel bases, and have sliding transmission, except the Columbia, which has electric transmission.The Thomas in this group has a horse power of 72, and the Stearns is rated at 60.3.
Another interesting group of cars is that of the two and three seated runabouts, ranging from $1,750 to $4,300, with horse powers running from 16, a Franklin selling at $1,750, to a 20 horse power Packard, the price of which is $4,200. There is also a large display of four seated runabouts, or toy tonneaus as they are called, with prices running from $1,000 to $6,000.
There are probably fifty limousines of the finest type ever shown in this country. Half of them are five seated and the other half are seven seated. They range in price all the way from the 24 horse power Northern to a Columbia, listed at $7,500.
Six Cylinder Cars.
There are twenty-five six cylinder cars ranging in price from $3,500 to $7,000, provided with magnificent touring and limousine bodies, and also a great variety of six cylinder runabouts, some holding two passengers and some four. Among the six cylinder models are the Peerless, Oldsmobile, Stevens, Duryeas, Pierce, and Winton. The Franklin touring car, at $4,000, is the only car in the class showing a cooled model, and is the lightest six cylinder shown, weighing only 2,500 pounds. The Franklin manufactures air cooled engines exclusively.
There are a great variety of beautiful electric victoria phaetons, coupés, landaulets, broughams, hansoms, and other vehicles not included in the gasoline type.
There are thirty or more manufacturers of commercial vehicles exhibiting in the Seventh Regiment armory, and visitors are conveyed there in motor buses free of charge. Every form of motor propelled commercial vehicle, and in addition farm implements, fire department vehicles, and those used in some cities for the speedy transportation of mail are shown. The aeroplane, a flying machine invented by H. H. Wixon of this city, and the new tractor train, which is being shown by the Alden Sampson company, are among the interesting features of the display at the Seventh Regiment armory.
Other Notes of Exhibits.
The Hartford Rubber Works company shows a recently patented applying and joining machine for vehicle tires, a variety which it is showing in reels of 500 feet.
“We were a little late in getting out exhibits installed,” said William Juergens of the Lauth-Juergens company, “but as we have sold a $5,000 touring car already, we feel satisfied with our opening day.”
Ralph Temple, who is exhibiting five makes of cars ranging from neat little electrics to great trucks and drays, was enthusiastic over the show. “Great interest has been shown in all the exhibits,” he said, “but when we get our rapid commercial cars installed, drays, police patrsm buses, and ambulances we will have the finest exhibit of its kind ever shown.”
Wabash Avenue, between Fourteenth and Sixteenth streets
The Automobile Show ran from November 30-December 7, 1907.
First Regiment Armory
1552 S. Michigan Ave
Seventh Regiment Armory
Southeast corner of South Dearborn and West 16th Streets
1911 Sanborn Map